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Tales of the Countess
Tales of the Countess
Tales of the Countess
Ebook302 pages4 hours

Tales of the Countess

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How can a woman so capable at work be so useless at getting a man?


Kennington, London, 1998


The Countess of Kennington awakes one morning after a heavy night and realises it all has to stop.


She has to stop drinking her problems away. She has to stop acting irresponsibly. And she has to stop obsessing over the MSL: the Man She Loves.


But things are often easier said than done, and when she discovers the MSL is attending a conference where she is presenting, she cannot hold back her burgeoning hopes.


In a Sex In the City meets Toy Story scenario, the Countess lives in an unusual household where her chief confidantes, known as the accessories, are a collection of beloved handbags, a beautiful sheepskin coat and her teddy bear who provide her with support and advice.


As the conference gets underway, the Countess tries hard to focus on work, but encouraged by the accessories, she cannot resist the draw of the MSL.


The bags might talk but this is no kids book…



Tales of the Countess is a highly original chicklit novel by British author Cali Bird, about the need to find happiness in yourself before you get your man.


Buy it now for the perfect piece of romantic escapism.


PublisherCali Bird
Release dateMay 22, 2020
Tales of the Countess
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    Tales of the Countess - Cali Bird


    The Countess was dancing on a podium on a stage in X-Ray. She wore a gold lamé halter-neck top, a short charcoal-coloured skirt and black over-knee boots. Her arms were above her head, moving in time to the pounding techno beat. The cropped top revealed her slender midriff. Tucked into the waistband of her skirt was a six-inch square, fake fur leopard-print bag.

    Lost in the pulse of the music and the atmosphere of the club, she danced for two more tracks. As the vibe of the music slowed, she decided it was time for a drink. After running her hands through her hair and wiping the sweat from her forehead, she sat on the edge of the podium and swung her feet onto the floor of the stage. Her hand touched the bag to make sure it was still lodged in her skirt. Then she pushed her way through the gyrating bodies, down the steps and made her way around the edge of the main dance floor.

    On the way, she spotted her friend, Marie, and made a gesture that she was going for a drink. Marie nodded. Still dancing, she started moving towards the Countess. You okay? she mouthed as she got closer.

    The Countess nodded and shouted, Fucking brilliant. Let’s get a drink.

    The girls were regulars at X-ray and fully agreed with a recent Time Out article where it was listed as one of the top ten London clubs in 1998.

    They made a beeline into a gap at the long bar which ran along the back of the club. The Countess took the leopard-print bag out from her skirt and held it by the handles. She was standing next to a man in a white T-shirt, easily ten years her junior.

    Cool bag, he shouted. I was watching you dancing. You’re pretty wild.

    Thanks. He’s my pussy, said the Countess as she turned to face him. Would you like to stroke him? She offered the bag to the young man.

    He put his right hand out towards the bag then hesitated.

    Go on, said the Countess. He doesn’t bite.

    It’s a he? said the man as he stroked the bag.

    Yes, said the Countess. He’s called Pussy Original. My friend here bought him for me one Christmas.

    I can’t believe you go around asking people to stroke your pussy, said the man, laughing.

    The Countess shrugged. Why not? As you say, he’s a cool bag.


    Ten hours later, the Countess awoke. She was sprawled across her bed, fully clothed. A chink of the midday sunshine shone through a gap in the curtains, making a long diamond shape on her wardrobe door. The outfits that she had tried on and rejected the previous evening lay scattered around her bed.

    Bugger, she said as she came to. Still half asleep, she took off her boots and her clothes. She pulled back the quilt, got into bed and grabbed her teddy bear who had been sitting on the other pillow. She snuggled with the bear and slept for another two hours.

    Next time she woke, feeling very dry in the mouth, she turned over and groped around on her bedside table for a glass of water, nearly knocking it over. Had it been full, it would have sloshed everywhere. She lifted her head and drank what remained in the glass. Then she sat up, got out of bed and staggered to the bathroom.

    She looked in the mirror, licked her finger and tried to wipe away the previous night’s mascara that was smudged under her eye. She took a breath inwards, stared at herself and slowly shook her head.


    Back in her bedroom, the leopard-print bag, Pussy Original, had bounced up onto the bed to where the teddy bear lay. The bear was a medium-sized brown bear with a dusky purple-coloured ribbon around his neck. He had recently come into the Countess’s possession, having been a gift from one of her colleagues in New York. She had been given him when she finished her assignment at SC Radcliffe, one of the world’s biggest investment banks. For this reason, she had called him American Ted, though there was nothing particularly American about him. He spoke and carried himself in exactly the same way as the finest of English teddies.

    Looks like it was a rough night, said American Ted.

    You can say that again, said Pussy Original. Boy, can she drink. Probably stores it in those long legs of hers.

    The Countess once had Yellow Ted, who was very old and battered. One day, he was swept away in the linen at a five-star hotel when she was on a business trip and was never seen again. At the time, she figured it was a sign for her to grow up and find a decent man with whom she could share her bed. However, that plan had still not come to fruition, so when American Ted came into her life, she was secretly overjoyed.

    Do you think she’ll ever settle down? asked American Ted.

    I’m sure she’d love to, said Pussy Original, but it never worked out with the MSL in New York, so she’s still clubbing, drinking too much and chatting up the wrong men.

    The MSL, said American Ted. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. He’s called Ed. The one she used to work with?

    That’s him, replied Pussy Original.

    The MSL was an abbreviation that the Countess had concocted with Marie. At the time, both of them were suffering unrequited love, and both used to jokingly refer to these men as The Man I Love And Want To Marry. They rolled the two men up into one imaginary character and named it in the third person, The Man She Loves And Wants To Marry. That got shortened to The Man She Loves, which got shortened to the MSL.

    Marie eventually got to go out with her MSL, but he developed an aversion to spending any quality time with her, so she dumped him. That left the Countess still pining for hers.

    But she doesn’t work there anymore, said American Ted. That’s why I’m here. So, will she ever see him again?

    Who knows, said Pussy Original. I think she was hoping for a fairy-tale ending when she had her leaving drinks in New York. You know, where she fell into his arms at the end of the night, and it was all stars and roses. Didn’t happen though.

    Oh, no wonder she’s hurting, said American Ted. She’s cried a couple of times at night. I bet that’s why.

    Yep, she’s hurting bad, said Pussy Original. That’s why it’s great to have you around. She needs a teddy. Her old one kept her on the straight and narrow and frequently patched her up and put her back together when she fell apart. We have to look after the Countess. To the outside world, she is a beautiful, fantastic and lively businesswoman. But we see what’s really going on in her life, and it ain’t pretty.

    Oh God! said American Ted. I’m going to have my work cut out to look after this owner.

    You said it, Ted! replied Pussy Original.

    See You Next Tuesday

    Emergency drying procedure? asked Pussy Original, who was sitting on the wooden blanket box situated under the Countess’s bedroom window.

    Yep, said the Countess as she put a wet cream-coloured, lightweight blouse on a coat hanger and hung it on the second bar of the clothes horse.

    She plugged in a fan heater, set it two feet away from the structure and turned it on. Realising she needed to tilt the heater upwards, she went over to her bedside cabinet and grabbed a book to put underneath it.

    American Ted was sitting on the bed. He touched the sleeve of a navy blouse which the Countess had discarded on the unmade bed. Don’t you want to wear this one?

    I can if necessary, but I love the cream one with my new suit, said the Countess. I’m so annoyed for not noticing that spot on the front.

    But Madame, it’s nearly eight thirty. What time do you need to be at your new job? asked the bear.

    Bugger. It’s still not the right angle. She walked around her bed and took two more books. Then she bent down at the heater and worked out the best combination of reading material that would direct the heat to the optimal place. It’s my first day, so they don’t want me there until ten. Trust me, this won’t take long to dry. Thank goodness it’s sleeveless.

    She stood back and looked at the heater and the blouse. Deciding that it was safe, she went to the bathroom and showered. A few minutes later, she returned to the bedroom wrapped in a towel and felt the blouse. That’s coming along nicely, she said as she turned the hanger around so the other side was closest to the heat.

    Just after nine fifteen, she tottered up the steps from her basement flat into the early September sunshine. The blouse felt slightly damp under the armhole on the left-hand side where the fabric was doubled over, but otherwise, it was dry enough. She was about to walk to the tube station when she saw the orange light of a taxi coming up the road.

    What the heck, she said to herself as she held out her hand to hail it. It’s my first day. I’ll arrive in style.


    At five minutes to ten, the Countess entered the office of Periculum Software Solutions, a consultancy in Mayfair that dealt in risk systems for banks. Three weeks had passed since she had completed her assignment at SC Radcliffe in New York.

    She loved her new suit and felt that she could conquer the world in the right tailoring. The fabric was a dark navy with a faint white pinstripe running through it. The jacket was single breasted and nipped in at just the right place. The skirt was long, below the knee and very elegant. When the Countess moved, one noticed that it had a clever front split, high enough to show off a suggestive hint of her fabulously long and well-toned legs but not so high that it was indecent or unprofessional. Together with her hair, which had been recently cut into a very precise bob, the Countess projected every inch the immaculate and capable businesswoman. No one would have guessed her unusual laundry habits of the previous hour.

    She strode up to the reception desk. Hello. It’s my first day here. Aidan Kennedy said to ask for him.

    Ah yes, said the receptionist. Aidan is expecting you. I’ll just give him a buzz. Take a seat over there please, and he’ll be out soon.

    The Countess perched on the edge of the low-slung leather couch. She took hold of the skirt material that was to the right of the split and pulled it across her left knee. Then she put her handbag flat on her lap to ensure that she wasn’t flashing anything.

    She watched as a lady in high heels clipped her way across the marble floor of the reception area. The lady smiled at her as she punched in a security code for the glass door that separated the reception area from the main offices. The Countess returned the smile.

    Thirty seconds later, Aidan Kennedy, one of the company’s directors, appeared. She saw him press the door-release button on the other side of the glass. He wore a dark blue suit with a pink open-necked shirt and looked more like he belonged in the creative department of an advertising agency than being a director of a software consultancy.

    Good morning, he said with a smile. Come on through. He held the door open and beckoned her in.

    The Countess got up. As she reached the door, Aidan shook her hand. Great to meet you again.

    Likewise, said the Countess. It’s good to be here.

    Once she was through the door, she paused and waited for him.

    He motioned her to walk ahead. Go straight ahead to my office. It’s the glass box just down there.

    The Countess followed his direction and made her way through the open office. The lady from earlier was nowhere to be seen, but she did catch the gaze of one of the male twenty-something consultants who was sitting with other workers, all huddled over their laptops.

    As the office gangway widened out, Aidan caught up with her. It’s really great to have you here. We have so much new business and stuff in the pipeline.

    They went into his office. Aidan sat behind his desk, and the Countess took the chair in front. Despite all the modern glass fixtures of the office, she liked the fact that the arched stone window surrounds of the original building were still intact.

    Right, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, he said. We’ve got Deutsche Landesbank in Frankfurt that would be ideal for you. Some of our work there has got a bit out of hand and we need someone to get in there and sort it out. You’ve come along at just the right time. I also need you to keep an eye on what’s going on in one of our London banks. Their systems are so antiquated, they are barely part of this century, let alone ready to cope with the new millennium.

    Okay, the pressure is on for them then, said the Countess.

    They say they are ready for the Euro, said Aidan, but I’m not sure if that means they’ve just hired a lot of monkeys with two sets of abacuses.

    The Countess laughed. It’s amazing sometimes how businesses manage to function when their systems are so old.

    Very true, but at least it keeps us in a job when they are forced to change them. Aidan leaned back in his chair and ran his hand through the front of his hair. It seems hard to believe that all those European currencies are going to disappear in three years’ time.

    The Countess observed a few grey hairs at his temple and the beginning of a receding hairline. I know, she replied. It will feel weird to not have Deutsche Marks or French francs when travelling in Europe.

    It will be a lot more convenient just to have one currency to deal with, he said, but I can’t help wondering whether a single central bank and one set of interest rates will work for all those countries.

    Yes, I’ve wondered about that too, said the Countess. I guess we’ll know in a few years. Then we can see whether we should join too.

    Yes, that will be the big question. Aidan sat forward again. Anyway, back to today’s issues. At Deutsche Landesbank, we’ve got a project manager out there, but they’re floundering a bit, so the client’s getting twitchy. I think that if you give our manager a steer and sweet talk the client, then hopefully it will all smooth over very quickly.

    Sure, said the Countess. When would you need me to go there?

    Let’s see, what day is it today? said Aidan. Wednesday. I think it would be a bit mean of me to send you out there this week, so why don’t you go early next week for a couple of days? Give them a shout today on the phone. They’ll get you up to speed and let you have access to all the documentation and stuff. I’ve got a laptop waiting for you out there somewhere. Our IT guys assure me it is all fixed up and ready to go.

    Okay, no problem, said the Countess. If you can give me the number for your travel agent, then I can fix that up straight away.

    Fantastic, said Aidan. That’s what I like to hear. It’s going to be so good having you around.

    They discussed a couple of other possibilities for the Countess, including a bid that was currently in progress for a bank in Vienna. As their meeting drew to a close, Aidan said, One last thing. Please forgive me, but I’m such a nosy parker. I understand from one of my fellow directors that you’re a countess. Is this true?

    Yes, said the Countess. The title was passed down to me when my father died.

    Ah right – sorry to hear about your father, said Aidan.

    Thanks. It was a while ago now, replied the Countess.

    Still, it must have been tough for you. Um, so, er... we’ve never had blue blood in the firm before. Do we have to address you in any formal way?

    No, laughed the Countess. Please don’t feel obliged. I don’t use my title like that. I prefer to just get on with my life and live and work.

    Actually, in saying this, the Countess wasn’t being strictly honest. For starters, she loved being a countess, and once she was comfortable and better acquainted with a work situation, she usually ended up larking around with her title. As for being addressed correctly, whilst it was true that she did not insist on this at work or with her friends, her beloved accessories back at Kennington Mansions always called her Madame. Why she had ended up with a French salutation, no one quite knew, but the Countess liked it so much that American Ted and Pussy Original used it consistently.

    And your colleagues? The other employees here. Does it matter if they know who you are? asked Aidan.

    No. I’m just here to get on with the job. The fact that I’m a countess usually comes out in conversation as I get to know people. It’s no problem for me.

    Right. That’s good, said Aidan.

    The reality was that the whole company knew that the new recruit was a countess because he had let the cat out of the bag at a recent company drinks evening. Since then, everyone had been dying to meet her.


    That evening, Marie waited for the Countess at their favourite cocktail bar, tucked around the back of New Bond Street.

    Gosh, it’s busy in here for midweek, said the Countess as she squeezed in on the red velvet seating between Marie and the people at the next table. Sorry I’m late. I thought I’d better look keen on my first day. I got caught by one of the bosses on my way out, so I had to engage in intelligent conversation with him.

    That’s okay, said Marie. How did it go?

    Good, replied the Countess. I’m about to get dispatched to Frankfurt to sort out one of their messy clients. I’ve been there before. It’s not the sexiest place on earth, but as long as they put me in a decent hotel, then I guess I can grin and bear it.

    Marie smiled. The Countess did a lot of business travel and much preferred it when her clients paid for business-class flights and a nice hotel.

    I’m sure they will, she replied. They’re based in Mayfair, so hopefully, they don’t do things on the cheap. Anyway, what are you drinking?

    Don’t know. G & T? Jack and Coke? Or shall we have a glass of champers to celebrate my new job?

    Champagne, said Marie. I was hoping you were going to suggest that.

    The Countess had known Marie for a few years now. They had once shared a house together when they were both new to living in London. Initially, Marie had been wary of the Countess because she obviously came from a well-heeled background. It was only a few months on that the Countess revealed to her that she had left home for a while aged seventeen and had still managed to get through her ‘A’ levels. The Countess subsequently refused family money from her father and went on to gain a first-class degree in Business and Mathematics. As her prejudices dropped away, Marie became firm friends with the Countess.

    How are you? said the Countess.

    Pretty good, replied Marie. It was fairly low stress today. One of my horrible weekly meetings was cancelled, so I had a much better afternoon than I’d anticipated.

    Is that the meeting with that silly man who shouts and rants a lot? asked the Countess.

    Huh-hmm, said Marie, nodding her head.

    I hate people like that, said the Countess. The bottom line is that they’re incompetent and cover this by shouting and screaming. It makes them so bloody difficult to work with.

    Oh yes, said Marie. He ruins my day at least once a week. I hate him. Let’s order that champagne.

    They managed to flag down one of the waiters who crouched down next to them so he could hear their order over the hubbub of other people’s conversations and the slow bass beat of the chillout background music.

    When the drinks arrived, the Countess took a sip of hers and said, Ahh, that’s better. Now the world is a better place. I just love this stuff!

    Me too, said Marie. After a couple more sips she set her glass down and then asked the Countess, Have you heard from the MSL recently?

    I got an email from him last week, said the Countess. He said that my leaving party was so wild, it was still being talked about and will be for years to come!

    That’s pretty impressive. It’s a shame though that he didn’t make it wilder by actually having the courage to make a move on you! said Marie.

    Yeah – he really kept his distance from me that night. It’s quite ironic that he writes about what an outrageous party it was. I’ve been thinking about him a lot. I just can’t get him out of my head. It’s so annoying. But maybe this new job will help. Today was the first day that he has disappeared from my mind for a couple of hours. I’ve really enjoyed being free of him.

    That’s good, said Marie. I think you’ve done the right thing by taking this opportunity. You’ll get over him eventually. If he didn’t have the guts to make a move on you at your leaving drinks, then you’re better off without him.

    I know, said the Countess. But it feels so hard. I really thought that something was going to happen once we weren’t working with each other. He is The Man I Love And Want To Marry. Making a fresh start back here probably was the right thing to do, given that it was going nowhere – but I’ve geographically taken myself away from him. Perhaps I should have hung out there just a little longer.

    No, said Marie. You were starting to get really unhappy, and it was making you crazy. One day, you’ll meet someone else. Someone better than him, who won’t be afraid to love a countess.

    I hope so, said the Countess. It is good to be back at Kennington Mansions though. I love my house, and I’ve been away from it too much in the last year or so.

    Aren’t you going to end up in Frankfurt all the time?

    Hopefully not, replied the Countess. I’m going to be managing it rather than doing all the work, so with a bit of luck I can pick my own schedule. When I’ve seen others in this role, they seem to fly in and be on-site for a couple of days a week and then do the rest from the office.

    That sounds good, said Marie. Working in Mayfair is going to be a real treat.

    "Yes. I loved walking up from

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